It really gets annoying when reporting in our nation's leading newspaper has a make it up as you go along character. A piece on a new infrastructure program to boost Russia's economy begins by telling readers:

"Russia has become a world-class saver. So much gold has piled up in its central bank that Russia surpassed China last year to become the world’s fifth-largest holder of gold.

"The International Monetary Fund often has to badger developing nations to bulk up foreign currency reserves. Russia has $472 billion in reserves, more than the country’s combined public and foreign debt of $453 billion and nearly three times what the IMF recommends."

Okay, so Russia's $472 billion in reserves are "nearly three times what the IMF recommends." Then how about the $3,073 billion in reserves held by China? China's economy is a bit more than eight times as large, but when we add in the more than $1.5 trillion value of China's sovereign wealth funds, its reserves would be almost ten times the size of Russia's.

The reason this matters is some of us have argued that China's currency continues to be undervalued and that this is a matter of government policy. If it cut back its reserve holds to a level that the IMF apparently thinks is appropriate for Russia, it would drive down the value of the dollar against the Chinese yuan, making US goods and services more competitive. If we had a president who was concerned about the US trade deficit with China, they would make raising the value of the Chinese currency the main focus.

Unfortunately, news outlets like The New York Times have insisted that China's currency is no longer undervalued. While it felt the need to tell readers that Russia's reserves are excessive for an economy of its size, it claims the opposite about China's even larger level of reserves relative to the size of its economy. This is not a good way for a news outlet to maintain its credibility.